Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • In April of 1962, anti-Castro Cuban exiles staged an invasion

  • at Cuba's Bay of Pigs.

  • The CIA, who was behind the three-day operation,

  • would come to consider it one of the most colossal blunders

  • in their entire history.

  • How bad did it go?

  • Well, let's just say that Che Guevara himself

  • is reputed to have thanked an American government

  • official for enabling it.

  • Today, we're going to recount some of the most insane facts

  • about the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

  • Before we get started, be sure to subscribe

  • to the Weird History Channel.

  • After that, be a good Patsy by leaving a comment

  • and letting us know what intelligence operations

  • you would like to hear more about.

  • OK, now we go to Cuba.

  • In 1973, E. Howard Hunt stood before a senate committee

  • investigating the Watergate break-in and said,

  • "I cannot escape the feeling that the country is punishing

  • me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to."

  • Do what Hunt didn't say was that those things included

  • some seriously shady stuff.

  • Hunt joined the CIA in 1949 and quickly rose through the ranks.

  • In 1954, he helped overthrow the Arbenz regime in Mexico.

  • By 1960, he was helping recruit Cuban exiles

  • willing to serve in a provisional government set up

  • to take control of the government

  • after the defeat of Castro.

  • This would lead directly to Hunt's eventual involvement

  • in the Bay of Pigs.

  • Though he wouldn't officially resign until 1970,

  • Hunt's career with the CIA was effectively over

  • after the failed invasion.

  • He would quickly fall in with the players in the Nixon White

  • House and became a key figure in the Watergate scandal.

  • Seeking to give themselves plausible deniability

  • as to involvement in the invasion,

  • the CIA sought to launch the invasion from Nicaragua.

  • To this end, they approached president and de facto dictator

  • of the country, Louis Somoza.

  • Nervous that he would face repercussions

  • at the hands of international entities like the United

  • Nations, he was reluctant.

  • Determined to get their way, the CIA eventually

  • bribed Somoza into agreeing for the tidy sum of $10 million.

  • Similarly, the CIA had helped quash

  • an attempted coup in Guatemala against a pro-US government.

  • They held a great deal of influence

  • there and used the country as a staging

  • grounds for the operation.

  • The American planes that came to support the ground

  • troops during the invasion had been disguised as Cuban planes.

  • This is so the Cubans wouldn't shoot them down.

  • Unfortunately, the invasion force

  • was so disorganized and ill-informed that they thought

  • the American planes were actual Cuban planes

  • and shot at their own air support.

  • [GUNFIRE]

  • [INDECIPHERABLE RADIO CHATTER]

  • It's difficult to start a revolution without the support

  • of the locals.

  • The CIA, though their director denied it,

  • was relying on a popular uprising

  • to break out against Castro as part of their plan.

  • They even convinced the US military

  • that such a revolt was likely in the wake of an invasion.

  • Unfortunately, the Bay of Pigs was

  • in a geographically remote area with a low population.

  • Without a wide-ranging propaganda campaign

  • to spread the word, most Cubans would

  • have no way to find out an invasion had even occurred.

  • That campaign never came.

  • Complicating matters even further,

  • Castro had thousands of political dissidents arrested

  • mere days before the invasion.

  • With those fighters out of the picture,

  • the chances of an insurrection fell precipitously.

  • Even worse, the timing of the arrest

  • suggested Castro knew the invasion was

  • coming days in advance.

  • It has been suggested by some that the only way

  • to explain the spectacular failure of the Bay of Pigs

  • is to assume failure was what the CIA wanted all along.

  • But why would the CIA want the invasion to fail?

  • Well, the agents in command of the operation

  • didn't believe Castro could be overthrown

  • without a full-scale US invasion.

  • This theory holds that the agency

  • sought to manipulate President Kennedy into ordering

  • that larger invasion by arranging for the smaller

  • invasion force of exiles to fail sooner rather than later.

  • After the invasion failed, President Kennedy

  • ordered a military review of the operation to figure out

  • what had gone so wrong.

  • That report, which would remain classified for decades,

  • concluded that both Cuba and the USSR knew of the invasion plan

  • long before it occurred.

  • In fact, the review determined that the communists

  • knew the plan before the rank-and-file members

  • of the invasion force did.

  • This implies that someone higher up in the chain of command

  • must have leaked the information.

  • The report further concluded that Allen Dulles, then

  • head of the CIA, knew that the Cubans

  • and Russians knew of the plan, but let it go ahead anyway.

  • This is often cited as further evidence

  • that the agency wanted the invasion to fail.

  • [SPEAKING SPANISH]

  • [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

  • On April 15, 1961, the CIA sent several B-26 bombers

  • to raid Cuban airfields with the intent of dealing

  • a blow to Castro's Air Force.

  • Painted to look like Cuban military planes,

  • the aircraft eventually landed in Key West, Florida.

  • Their pilots presented themselves

  • as defectors who stole the planes of their own accord

  • and flew them during the attacks.

  • Of course, as we've already established,

  • Castro knew the invasion was coming.

  • To protect his aircraft, he had them scattered

  • throughout the country.

  • The vast majority of the planes were unharmed,

  • and the damage was minimal.

  • This failure meant that Castro would

  • be able to attack planes providing air

  • cover for the invasion force.

  • Alarmed by such a possibility, the Kennedy administration

  • refused to provide any such air support.

  • There will not be under any conditions

  • an intervention in Cuba by United States Armed Forces.

  • This government will do everything it possibly can,

  • and I think it can meet its responsibilities to make sure

  • that there are no Americans involved

  • in any action inside Cuba.

  • Both American military personnel and civilians

  • were involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion,

  • and the CIA spent decades trying to cover up their deaths.

  • Take the story of Thomas Pete Ray.

  • He was a member of the Alabama Air National Guard,

  • and he specialized in flying the same B-26s that Castro's Air

  • Force mainly used.

  • The CIA needed pilots like Ray, so he was recruited along

  • with several of his fellow guardsmen

  • and sent to a staging ground in Nicaragua to prepare.

  • By April 19, 1961, the invasion was in dire straits.

  • Ray and his fellow pilots were told

  • they could help the invasion force by attacking

  • sites near the Bay of Pigs, but if they were captured or killed

  • they would be disavowed as mercenaries.

  • They went anyway.

  • While conducting a strafing run near the invasion landing site,

  • Ray was shot down.

  • Miraculously, both he and his flight engineer,

  • a man named Leo Baker, survived the crash.

  • However, they were quickly caught and killed

  • by the Cuban militia.

  • Baker was buried in a Cuban cemetery.

  • Ray, who was Caucasian and whose presence supported

  • the notion of American involvement in the invasion,

  • was embalmed and placed in a freezer until 1979.

  • His remains were eventually returned to his daughter.

  • The families of both men were told their fates

  • but also told to keep the information secret.

  • It wouldn't be until 1988 that the CIA would finally

  • acknowledge their connection to Ray and his fellow lost airmen.

  • All of them would receive the distinguished Intelligence

  • Cross, which is the highest award the CIA can bestow.

  • The Bay of Pigs has been reexamined repeatedly

  • over the decades since it occurred.

  • One of the interesting facts that has been uncovered

  • is that several units of US Marines

  • were apparently in the general vicinity of the invasion site.

  • Some analysts have suggested that this marine presence

  • was part of the CIA's plan to draw Kennedy

  • into a larger invasion.

  • If that was the case, it didn't work.

  • When the administration refused air support for the operation,

  • they also told the Marines to stand down.

  • One marine who was part of that force

  • recalled that explosions were already

  • going off in the distance when they received that order.

  • The Marines didn't have the numbers

  • to repel the 60,000 Cuban troops that they would have faced.

  • It's likely that if Kennedy hadn't held them out

  • of the Bay of Pigs, many of them would

  • have been captured or killed.

  • The buck stops with the president,

  • and John F. Kennedy decided to take public responsibility

  • for the Bay of Pigs Invasion and its failure.

  • Behind the scenes, though, Kennedy blamed the CIA

  • and felt they had misled him about the mission.

  • He also felt that they were doing their best to wash

  • their hands of the disaster.

  • A few months later Allen Dulles and

  • several other ranking members of the CIA

  • were dismissed or allowed to resign.

  • Dulles' role in the Bay of Pigs remains mysterious.

  • Many accounts hold that he was fully aware of and in control

  • of the situation, but more recent reports

  • have suggested that Dulles may have

  • been deteriorating mentally during the planning stages.

  • In an unusual move, he had delegated the tasks

  • of organizing the invasion and keeping the White House

  • informed to a subordinate.

  • He is also alleged to have missed important meetings

  • and displayed odd and eccentric behavior

  • in the course of his duties.

  • With the Cubans having advanced notice of the invasion,

  • the US Marines being held out of the battle,

  • and the lack of air support, you'd

  • think the Cuban exiles would've been slaughtered.

  • Yet only 118 members of the anti-Castro Cuban invasion

  • force died during the Bay of Pigs.

  • This seems especially incredible when you take into account

  • that the Cubans, with home field advantage and vastly superior

  • numbers, lost 176 members of the military and an estimated

  • 500 to 4,000 militiamen.

  • Still, nearly 1,200 anti-Castro fighters were captured.

  • After the invasion, Castro found himself with

  • over 1,000 American prisoners.

  • In exchange for their safe return,

  • he demanded expensive industrial machinery and tens of millions

  • of dollars.

  • However, he eventually settled for $53 million

  • worth of food and medical supplies.

  • All of this was provided by private companies.

  • The US government, who still maintained

  • they weren't involved in the invasion, had no official role.

  • The first prisoners returned were 60 seriously

  • injured men who were released in exchange

  • for a payment of $2.5 million.

  • This was quickly followed by a mass release which

  • included almost all of the remaining

  • members of the invasion force.

  • These prisoners were returned to Miami

  • where they were greeted by over 10,000 supporters.

  • However, one bay of pigs exile would remain in a Cuban prison

  • until 1986 before being released and returned.

  • The real reasons behind his quarter century of detention

  • were never explained by the Cuban government

  • and remain a mystery to this very day.

  • No matter how you slice it, the Bay of Pigs

  • was a complete disaster.

  • It embarrassed the United States and emboldened their enemies,

  • bringing the world closer to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

  • The Cold War lasted for decades, and while it

  • did eventually come to an end, it's

  • hard not to wonder what history would

  • look like if the Bay of Pigs Invasion

  • hadn't been such a half-assed [BLEEP] show.

  • Do you think a successful Bay of Pigs Invasion

  • might have changed history?

  • Let us know in the comments below.

  • And while you're at it, check out some of these other videos

  • from our Weird History.

In